REVIEW: Valley Maker “When the Day Leaves” is Uneasiness and Earthly Beauty


Whether intended or not, music often reflects the place where it was made. But Austin Crane’s geographical self-awareness is quite intentional – he’s pursuing a PhD in Human Geography. Crane’s fourth album of what he calls “atmospheric rural folk rock,” performed under the name Valley Maker, was written around his move from Seattle back to his native South Carolina. That itinerance lends When the Day Leaves both an uneasiness and an earthy beauty.

The mixed emotions that Crane and his wife felt in the move are evident from the record’s first line, “Hold on, day, don’t cut me loose.” The song itself, “Branch I Bend,” is a look at all the little things that make up the “bigness” in our lives, from aging (“Hold on decade, don’t decay”) to relationships (“Love is a home that I build and I break”), all met with the refrain “All in a day’s work.” Like many of the tracks on the record, the lyrics are balanced out by woodwinds from Morgan Henderson and ethereal vocals from Amy Godwin, making the song more thoughtful than fraught.

When the Day Leaves was primarily recorded at Way Out, a studio outside Seattle run by the album’s producer, Trevor Spencer, and that rural, Pacific Northwest feel is evident in songs like “Pine Trees.” Here, Crane is dealing with his past restlessness – “I’d run around the world/To catch back up.” Ever the explorer, though, he also shifts back to South Carolina in “No One Is Missing.” The video was shot on South Carolina’s Edisto Island, a locale not unlike coastal Washington in scenery (if not humidity). Even though the song (like the entire album) was written pre-pandemic, the tenuousness in human relations that Crane sings of – “Time slips away/I see friends do, too” – is even more pronounced now. 

When the Day Leaves isn’t full of solid answers to life’s great questions, but it shines a subtle light in the right direction. “Mockingbird” has Crane re-establishing ties to his old home, largely by renovating a house and making it his own – “”Project a masterpiece/Go and plant my favorite tree/SIt for a while and watch it grow.” And the album wraps with the title track, which has the songwriter pushing past bleakness and uncertainty to enjoy the fading light – “For one more day I’ve been given/Just to lie down beside/And feel the night erase it/And I wait there.” Seattle will always have a pull for Valley Maker (and Austin Crane), but this human geographer seems to have found his home. 

When the Day Leaves was produced, engineered and mixed by Trevor Spencer and mastered by Philip Shaw Bova. All songs were written by Austin Crane and arranged by Spencer, Crane and Amy Godwin Fitchette. Additional musicians on the album include Spencer (sampler, percussion, bass guitar, synthesizer, organ), Chris Icasiano (drums, percussion), Lance Umble (bass guitar), Willem de Koch (trombone), Chloe Rowlands (trumpet), Casey Wescott (organ, piano), Alina To (violin) and Abbey Blackwell (upright bass), 

Go here to order When the Day Leaves:

Check out Valley Maker’s livestream of the new album here on Saturday, March 20:


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